THE Court of Appeal has scheduled two days in June to consider George Pell’s application to appeal his conviction for sexually abusing two 13-year-old choirboys at Melbourne’s St Patrick’s Cathedral in 1996.
Both Pell’s application to the court for leave to appeal and the appeal itself, if permission is granted, will be heard on June 5 and 6.
The cardinal was convicted in December on five charges – one of sexual penetration of a child and four of committing an indecent act with a child – stemming from offences after a Sunday mass when he was newly installed as archbishop of Melbourne.
Pell maintains his innocence. He is appealing the conviction on three grounds, including that the verdicts were “unreasonable” and the jury could not have been satisfied beyond reasonable doubt on the word of one complainant alone against the “unchallenged exculpatory evidence” of more than 20 prosecution witnesses.
It’s also argued County Court chief judge Peter Kidd erred in not allowing the defence to use a video graphic in closing arguments to demonstrate the offending was impossible, and that there was a “fundamental irregularity” in the trial because Pell was not arraigned in front of the jury.
Sydney silk and appeal expert Bret Walker SC will lead the challenge, taking over from defence barrister Robert Richter QC once Pell has been sentenced on March 13.
Mr Walker is no stranger to high-profile cases.
He represented MPs including then-deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce in High Court hearings over dual citizenship in 2017, and reportedly commanded up to $15,000 a day when he represented former prime minister Kevin Rudd at a royal commission into the failed pink batt scheme in 2014.
Junior counsel Ruth Shann and solicitor Paul Galbally will continue to represent the disgraced cardinal and Mr Richter will be part of the legal team.
The latter was forced to deny he’d quit the team on Tuesday after The Age reported he claimed to be too emotionally involved in the case and angry at the jury’s “perverse” verdict.
“I have not quit. I do not quit,” he subsequently told AAP.
Mr Galbally said in a statement Mr Richter had questioned if he had “sufficient objectivity” to take the appeal forward himself, but would be involved to the end.
© AAP 2019